Topic: Environmental protection / Species preservation
Resolution: When talking about our planet, the best way to preserve natural ecosystems is rewilding.
Description: Today, many regions both in Europe and worldwide are uninhabited, with vast areas where original flora and fauna could be restored. Although this statement sounds reasonable, it simultaneously raises many questions. This is why it has strong debating potential. On the PROs side, several points deal with the disappearance of wildlife and the extinction of many species. They tell us that today’s flora and fauna are not original inhabitants of our ecosystems. The main assumption behind this view is that the Pleistocene epoch should be taken as a measure of the original/wild state of our ecosystems. According to this view, until that moment, the majority of the world’s ecosystems were independent of man. So, if man is the main culprit for the disappearance of wildlife, now he must undertake radical measures for its conservation. However, there are many CONs in the case of rewilding. Firstly, economic reasons, because such an ecological approach would be too expensive – with uncertain outcomes. New and old animal and botanical species would be exposed to unpredictable relations. In other words, they would be placed in new ecological roles – altogether, this is a risky undertaking. The second group of CON arguments question whether Pleistocene is a measure for the original ecosystem.
Topic: Application of algorithms
Resolution: The development of AI technologies will cause numerous social and economic problems for people in the near future.
Description: AI researchers and engineers should understand the dual nature of their work and learn more about the (social/theoretical) issues of AI abuse. AI should not deny people the right to data privacy, such as individual, family or community rights. Numerous research and predictions by scientists say that by mid 21st century we will have developed artificial general intelligence – machines capable of human-level performance. When the machines become “better than us”, will we be able to secure normal coexistence with them? Intelligent machines will have great influence on jobs that humans (still) perform. The question is how much can their algorithms be objective and transparent and how much would they influence security. On the other hand, AI technology can and should be developed for the greater good and security and should serve humanity. Robot Mario is a good example of this, assisting people with dementia. The latest research from MIT recommends using robot NAO for helping children with autism. The use of AI in law and forensic science is yielding excellent results: “officer Hart” (Harm Assessment Risk Tool) in Great Britain helps decide on the detention of suspects. In addition, the Chicago police uses AI to track bomb threats and prevent conflicts in the real world. Many researchers claim that if AI leads to job shortages and the extinction of some occupations, others would emerge in the meantime, so robots would not take over human jobs.
Topic: Structure of information networks
Resolution: In the future, social media/the Internet will be the best means for the dissemination/communication of STEM knowledge
Description: Traditional schooling and education i.e. knowledge transmission can hardly keep up with the rapid change of the modern world. Knowledge is more accessible, but its quality is sometimes questionable. The Internet technologies are an inevitable reality. However, we need more efficient tools to secure the validity of information, at the same time not limiting freedom of speech. Many respectable universities have successfully launched MOOCs, making high-quality courses available to thousands of people. Platforms such as Coursera enable distance learning (cheaper and can be attended alongside a full-time job). Social networks are an excellent means of instant dissemination of knowledge. However, the Internet and social media suffer more severely from problems such as filter bubbles, echo chambers, and infostorms. The consequences of such phenomena are fake news and the spread of pseudo-scientific “theories” such as creationism, the anti-vaccination movement and flat Earth theories.
Topic: Food production
Resolution: The future of humanity depends on the conservation of honeybees
Description: When talking about the importance of bees, a quote attributed to Albert Einstein usually comes up: “If the bee disappeared off the face of the Earth, man would only have four years left to live.” The quote was cited by the media many times, even by the more credible ones, as well as in literature. However, as it turned out, it was a hoax or fake news. The quote appeared in a leaflet from 1994 published by the French association of beekeepers. But the issue it raises nevertheless remains unresolved. The bees are key for the pollination of a number of plants used in human nutrition, but the question whether our food supply would be endangered remains unanswered. Could homo sapiens survive without bees? The majority of calories used every day in people’s nutrition come from wheat, corn and rice, and these are all plants that do not require pollination.
Topic: Neurobiology of animals
Resolution: The scientific community has a moral obligation to prevent animal use in experiments.
Description: At first glance, this topic mainly deals with moral questions, and the debate can unroll in many ways, depending on our ethical standpoint. In that sense, if we think that non-human animals are moral beings, we will consider that the use of animals in scientific experiments is problematic, etc. Also, argumentation may be founded in biology and genetics, since we belong to the common genetic fund as animals. Apart from topics concerning biology and neurobiology, the debate about moral obligations of the scientific community to prevent animal use in experiments would have students discuss many ethical, economical and political questions.